Tag Archives: promotion

When to Promote

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I have a technician in an S-I role, but he shows promise to be a supervisor. Shows promise, he’s not there yet. If I promote him, he will fail. Yet, he is clamoring to be promoted. If I promote him and he fails, he will likely quit OR I will have to fire him. What to do?

Response:
Your instincts are solid. I divide each stratum level of work into three parts (Lo-Med-Hi). For example, Lo-S-II would be an emerging supervisor, may not have earned the title of supervisor yet, but is still in the learning and testing phase.

Med S-II is someone with the competence to be effective in the supervisor role, certainly has the role title.

Hi-S-II is someone, extremely competent and a candidate for consideration at Lo-S-III (emerging manager).

So, Hi-S-I would be your best technician, could be called at “team lead.” If the S-II supervisor is out for the day, this guy is in charge. He will struggle in most areas as a supervisor, but given time (couple of years) he may grow and become more effective at Lo-S-II accountabilities.

Let’s take safety as a key result area (KRA), for example.
S-III designs a safety system.
S-II selects elements of the safety system to focus on each day, coached by S-III manager who designed the safety system.
Hi-S-I may deliver a 3-min safety talk to the team, on a topic selected and coached by the S-II supervisor from the S-III safety system. Hi-S-I would be the role model for the rest of the team to make sure they all go home with fingers and toes.

As time goes by, Lo-S-II projects are assigned to the Hi-S-I team member. This will give the Hi-S-I team member low-risk experience making S-II decisions and solving S-II problems. At some point, everyone will realize the Hi-S-I team member is effectively completing task assignments at S-II. That’s when the promotion happens, not a minute sooner. -Tom Foster

Level of Work and Promotions

“So, Phillip can handle tasks with a one month time span, but falls short on tasks with a longer time span,” Joyce confirmed.

“So, what does that tell you about his role? You told me that you promoted him to Warehouse Manager. Based on the level of work in the role, is that appropriate for Phillip?” I asked.

Joyce knew the answer, so her hesitation was from reluctance. “No. Now it begins to make sense. What we expect from a Manager, even the Warehouse Manager requires a Time Span of twelve months. Phillip is not even close.”

“So, if you had determined the level of work before the promotion, you might have done something differently?” I prompted.

“Absolutely. When I look at Time Span, it becomes so obvious that his promotion was a bone-headed decision.”

“And who was responsible for that bone-headed decision?”

“That would be me,” Joyce replied.
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

The Look-Ahead

“Then, how are we going to measure the size of the role?” I repeated. Joyce and I were discussing Phillip. Though he had been made manager, he was having difficulty with some of his new responsibilities.

“So, you are suggesting that we look at all the tasks on Phillip’s plate and assign a Time Span to them?” Joyce asked.

I nodded.

She began to brainstorm out loud, “If I look at his Key Result Areas, as Warehouse Manager, Phillip is responsible for:

  • Personnel
  • Receiving
  • Picking
  • Shipping
  • Warehouse Layout and Work Flow
  • Security
  • Equipment
  • Safety

“And which of those KRAs has the longest Time Span tasks?” I asked.

Joyce pulled out a sheet of paper to make some notes. “Receiving, picking and shipping are fairly short term things. The look-ahead is probably no more than a couple of weeks.

“But, both Personnel and Warehouse Layout and Work Flow, contain much longer Time Span tasks. We have a lot of seasonality to our product lines and we have to make decisions about inventory bin placement four or five months in advance. We really depend on a twelve month bin cycle that rotates stock both forward and backward depending on seasonality. Some tasks create a feedback loop to sales and purchasing about inventory turns, raw materials in stock, finished goods in stock. There is a lot to control, but it’s easy if you think out far enough into the future and plan.

“And that’s where Phillip messes up,” Joyce concluded. “He just doesn’t plan out far enough, so it’s always chaos.”

“So, if we were to measure Phillip’s capability in Personnel and Layout and Work Flow, he underperforms?” I confirmed.

It was Joyce’s turn to nod.

“So, let’s look at his other tasks, determine the level of work and see if we come up with a pattern of his effectiveness.”
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Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

Testing a Person Prior to a Promotion

“You told me, before I promote someone to a new role, that I should test them, with project work,” Maryanne surmised.

“So, how will you test this person?” I prodded.

“Her assembly work is good, but to keep everyone on the line productive, we need an ample supply of raw materials. There is a lead time of three weeks from ordering and we can only keep so much in stock. I could ask her to put together the next order from our supplier.”

“And, you will check her order before she places it?”

“Of course. But after she does it couple of times, I can likely trust her. Then I will give her another project to do related to the preventive maintenance schedules on some of our machines.”

“And, what will be the trigger point for the promotion?” I asked.

“Good question. I think I should sketch out an overall plan for this promotion to include a sample project from each skill required in the new position.”

Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, by Tom Foster, is now available for Kindle, soon to be released in softcover.

Outbound Air

You Have a Hunch

“You have a hunch, let’s call it intuitive judgment, that this team member might be effective at a higher level of work. You observe evidence of that potential in current projects, and in the pace and quality of current work output. She is helpful to other people she works with and coordinates her work handoffs so they are seamless. So, what is your question?” I asked.

“There is an open position. I think I would like to promote her,” Maryanne shrugged her shoulders.

“So, if you promote her, and it doesn’t work out, what do you have on your hands?” I pressed.

“You’ve told me before, a chocolate mess.”

“So, how will you test her in the role you are thinking about?”

Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, by Tom Foster, is now available for Kindle, soon to be released in softcover.

Outbound Air

Should I Promote Based on a Hunch?

“I have someone that I have been watching,” Maryanne started. “I think they have the potential to move into the open manager spot on my team.”

“What makes you think this person would be successful?” I asked. “What is the evidence of potential that you see?”

“It’s just a hunch,” she replied.

“So, you are going to give someone a promotion based on a hunch?”

“Okay. I know you want me to slow down,” she agreed.

“So, tell me. What evidence of potential do you see?” I repeated.

“How can you see potential?” she asked. “How can potential be more than a hunch?”

“Most of the time, if a person has potential for higher levels of work, there is evidence. Your hunch is based on something you see. What did you observe in this person? What is the evidence?”

Outbound Air, Levels of Work in Organizational Structure, by Tom Foster, is now available for Kindle, soon to be released in softcover.

Outbound Air

Test With Project Work

Hiring Talent Summer Camp starts in two weeks.
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“What could I have done differently?” Joyce asked. “I thought Phillip was the right choice. I know now, that I was wrong, but how do you make the decision on whether or not to promote someone?”

“Why did you think he was a candidate for promotion?” I asked.

“Well, he has been with us for a little over a year. He knows the ropes. He was a team leader, had the respect of his team,” Joyce replied.

“And what level of work do you think he is capable at?”

“Well, based on what we have been talking about, his current capability seems to be about four weeks or a little more, but not a lot more.”

“So, how could you find out how much more?”

“Well, he was successful at four weeks. I could have given him a task that took six weeks to complete, or eight weeks.”

“Exactly,” I pointed out. “The best way to determine performance is with project work. The problem with project work, is that, until we talked about Time Span, you had no way to determine the level of work. With Time Span, you can measure with more precision. Your job, as his Manager, becomes more precise.”

Promoted to Manager

Now, we were in a pickle. Our top salesperson for last year, $450,000 in gross sales, was on the chopping block to be fired.

In January, he had been promoted to sales manager, moved to a guaranteed salary equal to last year’s total comp, and now he was failing. Relieved of all, but the most critical accounts, he was supposed to be leading the sales group, holding meetings, inspiring, helping others to set targets and holding them accountable. As a salesperson, he was great, as a sales manager, he was the pits.

Classic mistake. Take your best producer, whether it is in sales, production or research and make them the manager. Management requires a totally different skill-set, with a high interest in getting people to work together, miles apart from producing technical work.

Once done, tough to get undone. No one likes to move backwards. Most importantly, whose fault was it?

Who to Promote, Who to Let Go?

“Yes,” Roger nodded. “Grading my sales team into these six bands of effectiveness helps me see what to do next.”

“How so?” I prompted.

Personal Effectiveness

Personal Effectiveness


“The temptation is to keep all the people in the top half of the banding and terminate the people in the bottom half. But now I have more judgments to make, as a manager.”

“There’s more?” I pressed.

“Yes. I have one salesperson, in the top of the top half, that needs leadership training. In another year, I want to move that salesperson into a more complicated product line, with a longer sales cycle, working with a special sales team.”

“And?”

“And,” Roger stopped. “And I need to terminate five out of the seventeen people I have on my team.”

“How did you reach that conclusion?” I asked.

“Again, it wasn’t difficult. I have been making excuses for them, sent them to training, tried to motivate them, offered a bonus. Funny, paying people more money doesn’t make them more competent. Once I did the analysis, it became very clear. I made some very poor hiring decisions.”
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Barnes and Noble picked up Hiring Talent. Matching Amazon’s promotion pricing.